TV shows, in some ways, can be far scarier than their horror movie counterparts. When watching a film, the plot draws to a conclusion within around 2 hours of the start, often offering a sense of catharsis and relief as the threat is defeated. Of course, we know the evil will return for the, almost guaranteed, sequel (or full franchise if most horror movies are anything to go by!), but you are still often left with a sense of relief that things are over for now. The same luxury isn’t afforded to fans of horror tv shows, where the plot can stretch over the course of several months, or even years, never knowing when the evil will next strike! This can be quite chilling, leaving viewers on a cliff-hanger after almost every episode.
Here are four of my favourite horror shows that are inspired by horror movies!
As remakes or spin-offs of already established horror films, many viewers will already have a pretty good idea of the general plot points of a show. While this may seem like it could spoil the fun of the series, it actually ramps up the suspense, leaving you watching every moment eagerly awaiting for THAT moment to happen.
There is no show where this is more relevant than with Bates Motel, the television show that acts as a prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic horror classic Psycho. Those who have seen Psycho will know that the killer, Norman Bates, had killed his mother some time before (it can’t be counted as a spoiler – the film came out in 1960!). Therefore, when we meet a living Norma Bates in the prequel, all we can wonder is; ‘when and how will she meet her end?’
Deserving of a lot more credit than it got, Bates Motel took the Hitchcock classic on a five series journey that explored the disturbingly close relationship that Norman had with his mother, as we watch him spiral deeper into insanity. While you know what’s coming in the end, the unpredictability and untrustworthiness of each character means that every episode leaves you guessing for the truth, making the journey that much more interesting.
Scream is one of my favourite movies of all time. The perfect example of postmodernist horror that truly rebooted the horror genre in the 90s with its new take on parody. When it was announced that the Wes Craven classic was being turned into a series, I must admit that I was sceptical as to how they would transform a slasher movie- in which the very nature leaves the majority of characters for dead- into a multi-season television show.
But how wrong I was. The TV series allows Scream to do something that the films could never truly manage. With multiple episodes allowing you to get to know and love each character, you become attached to them, fearing that they will be the killers next victim. It makes for gripping TV, your eyes glued to the screen desperate to find out if your favourite has made it out alive. And when the knife does finally fall, you may be left devastated.
Not following the plot of the original films at all, Scream is more an homage to the movie, and to the horror genre in general. Some aspects still remain though, keeping the structures that made the film so successful. All of the characters, for example, still match those high school archetypes typical of a 90’s movie. Here though, the sweet, final girl works together with the jock, the nerd, the outsider and the popular girl to combat the evil apparent in the town. It’s a little bit Mystery Inc., but it actually works very well.
The drawn-out nature of the television show makes the suspense as high as the killer’s death count. The mystery is amplified, and the brutal slayings read as far more emotional than the humorous tone they gave off in the film. A far more complex killer haunts the town in this series. Instead of causing chaos in a cheap fancy-dress shop mask and cloak like in the movies, the TV reboot sees the killer sporting a medical mask.
The supposed villain of this series is dead with a mysterious end and a backstory to make you weep. But the question marks surrounding their existence brings an eeriness to the TV show that was somewhat lacking in the film. From time to time, evidence appears to pin the killings on a ‘back from the dead’ style monster seeking revenge. It soon becomes pretty clear there are bigger things at hand. Yet, this character provides the foundation from which the entire show builds, leading to as many family secrets being spilt as there is victim’s blood.
The reboot for TV allows the plot to be fleshed out fully. Instead of running away from the dangers, the characters run into them, exploring those creepy abandoned hospitals and children’s homes. Real life isn’t put on the backburner in the TV show either. The films are all about the impending threat of danger, with little chance for the fun things in life.
One of the worst things about bringing reboots into the 21stcentury is the mistakes directors make with technology. Some choose to have fake search engines and massive text message bubbles, which seem inauthentic, while others decide to pretend that social media doesn’t exist yet. Firmly planted in the 21stcentury, modern technology is put at the forefront of the Scream TV show. Equal weighting is given to the cyberbullying of bisexual character Audrey, as it is to the actual murders. Throughout the series, texting and podcasts are used to deepen the story and entrap the characters into ever more perilous circumstances.
One of the best things about the original is its feeling of self-awareness. The rules of horror films are laid out, regarding sex, leaving the room and running up the stairs. And of course, these are all subsequently ignored. Likewise, MTV’s Scream doesn’t take itself too seriously. In the television spin-off, these tongue in cheek jokes are switched up to the max. The mockery of horror tropes was needed to really pull this off as a successful Scream homage, something I think it did excellently!
Acting as a prequel of sorts to Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal explores the titular characters life before he was imprisoned, revealing to the audience some of the monstrous things he does to warrant his incarceration. With Hannibal Lecter only receiving 16 minutes of airtime in the film, the series certainly awards a more in-depth exploration of his character.
Despite the name, the main character is actually Will Graham, a man working alongside the FBI to help catch a string of serial killers. Hannibal isn’t just about murder; it’s primarily about the psychiatry and mental stability of protagonist Will Graham, which worsens with every truly gruesome crime he witnesses. Hannibal presents some of the most inventive and macabre murders I have ever witnessed in horror TV.
It’s just a shame that I feel so annoyed that these people who can solve the most baffling of cases almost instantaneously can’t seem to work out that Hannibal, the man whose name is literally one letter off Cannibal, is the one behind the murders involving the removal of edible organs!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
While not quite as scary as some of the other options, the show does deal with vampires, demons and life at school (the real horror), cementing it in the realms of horror television. Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a television show is obviously a firm fan favourite, however, the film which it is based on was not so much of a hit, and few fans of the show have even watched it.
Having rewatched every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer every year for the past six years, it’s fairly safe to say that I like the show rather a lot. From the strong, yet complex, female leads to the deep and interesting plot-lines that had viewers on the edge of their seats, I personally believe it’s one of the best shows ever made. A little slow-going in the first season, granted, but by the last season you never want it to end, feeling truly connected to each and every character – regardless of whether they’re meant to be ‘evil’!
A perfect mix of horror, humour and teen drama, the show is well written with truly complex characters and intense plot twists. Unlike other vampire-themed stories (ahem, Twilight), the vamps are actually evil (with not a drop of glitter in sight). Demons, while real in the Buffyverse, also act as metaphors for the struggles faced by The Scoobies, from magic as a drug addiction to battling one of the biggest monsters on graduation day.
Buffy is one of those iconic shows that people still reference, even though it was first aired over 20 years ago, showing that the show truly has transcended its movie origins and is, in fact, one of the best shows ever made!
What seems to separate the film and the TV is the emotion. The longer overall run time of TV shows allows for characters to be developed into those we truly love and feel for. But what do you think about these TV horror shows and how they compare to the film that inspired them? Let me know in the comments below, or reach out via my social media channels!